Is Buying a Used Car Online All It’s Cracked Up to Be? We Review Carvana vs CarMax vs Vroom to Find Out


When CarMax first introduced the idea in 1993 of skipping the usual price haggling when buying a used car, people were intrigued. It was standard protocol to go to a car dealership and have to negotiate to get a better deal than the sticker price.

Since then, CarMax and online dealerships like CarMax have given car buyers another option, to just purchase after reviewing an inventory of cars online, with the lowest price already offered, no need to haggle, just online car shopping made easy!

Online Auto Dealers - Carvana Vs CarMax Vs Vroom

Carmax Review

The idea caught on and other sites followed, with Carvana and Vroom providing even more options for buying and selling used cars online.

So, how do CarMax vs Carvana vs Vroom compare? Is there a difference in the experience you get from Carvana and Carvana competitors? Where do you get the best trade in value?

We’re taking an in-depth look into these three online car dealerships to find out which distinctions each has and how they match up. We’ll go through Vroom, Carvana, and CarMax car buying reviews and talk about the car buying and selling experience with each site.

If you’ve ever wondered about buying and selling on Carvana, Vroom, or CarMax vs a dealer selling a car, you’ll want to read on to see if online car buying might make your life easier.

See Also: Is Vroom Legit? What You Need to Know About Buying a Car from Vroom



Comparison Review List

The list below is sorted alphabetically (click any of the names below to go directly to the detailed review section):


High Level Comparison Table

Car Sales FeaturesCarMaxCarvanaVroom
Car Pick Up for Trade InsNoYesYes
Data Started199320132013
Help with FinancingYesYesYes
Number of US Car Retail Locations

221

(dealerships)

24

(car vending machines)

1

(Partners with Houston-based Texas Direct Auto brand)

Offers Car DeliveryOnly in select areasYesYes

Table: The above list is sorted alphabetically



AdvisoryHQ News Review | How Do Online Auto Dealers Work?

Before we get into the individual Carvana vs CarMax vs Vroom reviews, let’s look at an overview of how online used car buying and selling works.

The basic premise is to cut out the whole dealership “middle man” experience and thus give you a better price and shopping experience without any haggling over the price tag.

The Buying Process on Sites Like Carvana, Carmax & Vroom

The car shopping and purchasing process are fairly similar in Carvana vs Vroom vs CarMax. You get to shop from the comfort of your sofa and get to browse a lot more vehicles than you’ll find at a typical used car lot.

The buying process on websites like Carvana, Vroom, and CarMax goes something like this:

  • Shop online on the website or mobile app
  • Indicate the car you want to buy
  • Either pay cash or get financing
  • Pick up or have your car delivered

One of the obvious questions is, “How do you test drive a car if you’re shopping for it online?” You want to make sure you’re getting a good deal with any car purchase, but especially if it’s a pre-owned vehicle.

Here’s how online dealerships like Carmax and the rest handle test drives.

  • CarMax: They’re closer to a traditional dealership and allow test drives at their dealer locations.
  • Carmax, Carvana, and Vroom: They all have a 7-day return policy, which is their “test drive” period and if you don’t like the car you can return it and get your money back.

The Selling Process on Sites Like Carvana, Carmax & Vroom

What’s the Vroom, Carvana, or CarMax trade in value you’ll get? Can you just sell your car to them or do they only take trade-ins?

Here’s an overview of the Vroom vs Carvana vs CarMax process for those selling or trading in vehicles. All three accept both direct vehicle sales and trade ins.

  • Provide basic details about your vehicle, like the VIN and mileage, and photos
  • If using CarMax, you can either take it in to a dealer location for an appraisal or get Carmax’s online trade-in appraisal
  • Receive an offer, which is usually good for either 7 or 10 days
  • Bring your car in (CarMax), arrange delivery, or have it picked up (Carvana, Vroom)

We reviewed online reviews from those who’ve sold cars using websites like Carvana, Vroom, and CarMax to get an idea of the value. Generally, the Kelly Blue Book price is used for the Vroom, Carvana or CarMax trade in value, though it may be adjusted down for any damage, high mileage or other factors.

Now, let’s take a look at each of these Carvana competitors individually to see how they differ and what people have to say about them. What’s it like to buy and sell a car on sites like Vroom, Carvana, and CarMax? Read on to find out!

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CarMax Review


CarMax is the oldest of the three companies, having been founded in the 1990s. It’s the largest used car retailer in the U.S. and is a Fortune 500 company.

When comparing CarMax vs Carvana vs Vroom sales models, CarMax is the closest to a regular car dealership, having multiple locations throughout the country. But they also tie that into the “no hassle” flat pricing and ability to shop and sell cars online.

Things That Set CarMax Apart:

  • Inventory of over 60,000 used cars
  • Ability to test drive before you buy
  • Also offers online, remote trade-in appraisals
  • 7-day money-back guarantee
  • 90-day limited warranty
  • Can ship a vehicle from one dealership to another for a fee

What Reviewers Have to Say about CarMax

How do people like working with CarMax? Do they think CarMax’s trade in value is decent? We’ve pulled a few highlights from CarMax car buying reviews online to give you a window into what happy and unhappy buyers and sellers are saying.

Positive CarMax Car Buying Reviews:

  • Saved a ton of headaches, wonderful experience
  • Pleasantly shocked that there were no hidden or additional fees, like at other dealers
  • Excellent service, the experience was wonderful from start to finish

Negative CarMax Car Buying Reviews:

  • Had problem after problem with a vehicle and lost money on the trade in
  • CarMax repairs to a dinged vehicle made it look worse than before
  • Pricing was above the typical retail value of the car, not a fair deal

CarMax Summary

What’s the main difference between CarMax vs a dealer selling a car? From first glance, the buying and selling process is fairly similar. You visit their physical dealership location to buy or sell your car, can test drive while there, and get assisted by their salespeople.

But CarMax and dealerships like CarMax are different because of their flat-rate pricing, no-haggle model they built their business on. It’s now copied by other CarMax, Carvana, and Vroom competitors.

Another key difference between CarMax vs a dealer selling a car is their large online inventory of over 60,000 used vehicles to browse through. You won’t find that on a traditional car dealer’s lot.

When comparing Vroom vs Carvana vs CarMax when it comes to star ratings, CarMax gets 3.3 out of 5 at ConsumerAffairs and 1.9 out of 5 at DealerRater, so not very stellar scores.

If you like to test drive before you buy and still enjoy that face-to-face experience when buying or selling a car, then when it comes to CarMax vs Carvana vs Vroom, CarMax would be your best option.

Related: DriveTime Reviews: Is it Legit? A Scam or the Best Car Shopping Dealer?



Carvana Review


Carvana is based in Tempe, AZ and does not work through local dealerships at all. They’re well-known for their “car vending machines” which seem a bit too good to be true, but they are real and in 16 different major U.S. cities, like Atlanta and Houston.

Buying a Used Car Online - Carvana Vs CarMax Vs Vroom

Carvana Review

While both companies may have started in the same year, looking at a Vroom vs Carvana comparison, Carvana has definitely made a bigger name for themselves.

Things That Set Carvana Apart:

  • Patented 360-degree photo technology
  • Car vending machines, that really work
  • 7-day money-back guarantee
  • 100 day/4,189 miles “Worry-Free Guarantee”
  • If you book a one-way ticket to a car vending machine, they’ll give you $200 to help cover airfare

What Reviewers Have to Say about Carvana

When it comes to Vroom vs Carvana vs CarMax, do people like the service even if there is no dealership to visit? Let’s look at some highlights from Carvana car buying reviews.

Positive Carvana Car Buying Reviews:

  • Loved the experience, quick and hassle-free
  • Easy to sell a car without having to deal with people coming to the house to look at it
  • Staff is very friendly and make it easy to buy or sell a car with Carvana

Negative Carvana Car Buying Reviews:

  • Awful experience that takes forever
  • Buying process was great, but the repair warranty wasn’t honored after paying for it
  • Difficult process with multiple emails, phone calls, and rescheduled delivery dates

Carvana Summary

When looking at this online car buying site versus Carvana competitors, it looks like they’re definitely doing something right. We noted that even on negative reviews, the company answers them thoughtfully and tries to resolve the issue.

We haven’t seen any other sites like Carvana with their impressive car vending machines, which really make them stand out and gives them a “wow” factor.

When comparing CarMax vs Carvana vs Vroom on overall star ratings, Carvana gets 4.72 out of 5 at Cars.com and 4.7 out of 5 at DealerRater, very impressive.

If you’d like to ditch the dealership and buy from a highly rated online seller, then when considering Vroom vs Carvana vs Carmax, Carvana comes out as a top choice.

Popular Article: Is Carvana Legit? Read Unbiased Carvana Reviews



Vroom Review


Vroom is based in New York City and is also mainly an online retailer like Vroom competitor, Carvana. They also have a refurbishment facility in Stafford, TX, near Houston, and partner with the Texas Direct Auto brand. 

When looking at the similarities of sites like Vroom and comparing CarMax vs Carvana vs Vroom, this company is closer to Carvana in their online sales model, just not quite as flashy.

Things That Set Vroom Apart:

  • Inventory of over 3,000 used cars
  • Over 400 makes & models available
  • Comprehensive coverage plans available
  • 7-day money-back guarantee
  • Free pick up for trade ins

What Reviewers Have to Say about Vroom

Does Vroom stand out to people among Vroom competitors? How’s the experience when comparing Vroom vs Carvana vs CarMax? Let’s see what people are saying.

Positive Vroom Car Buying Reviews:

  • Exceptional experience, great prices and inventory of used vehicles
  • Financing was easy, everything was on time, would definitely use them again
  • The staff was so nice and very helpful, highly recommend them

Negative Vroom Car Buying Reviews:

  • Processing paperwork is very slow and difficulty getting the vehicle after a “safety inspection”
  • The buying experience was great but after that, the process was horrible with delays in getting the car delivered
  • The vehicle arrived with cosmetic and mechanical issues

Vroom Summary

People use sites like Vroom because they make the car buying process easier, and Vroom is no exception. Even people that gave negative reviews praised the easy car buying experience.

While Vroom might not have the flash of CarMax or Carvana, they do have a lot of happy customers and seem to have a handle on great upfront customer service. Unfortunately, the back end of car delivery seems to be lagging behind Vroom competitors.

Taking a look at CarMax vs Carvana vs Vroom in overall star ratings, Vroom gets 3.6 out of 5 at Cars.com and 3.8 out of 5 at DealerRater, right in the middle of the other two sites like Vroom.

Vroom has some advantages like the free pick up for a trade-in vehicle, over the CarMax and Carvana competitors, so they’re pretty closely matched to Carvana, but with a slightly smaller vehicle inventory.

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AdvisoryHQ Review Conclusion | Carvana vs CarMax vs Vroom

The internet has changed a lot of the ways we do things, and buying a car is one of them. Gone are the days of having to sit across from a slick car dealer negotiating over a price. Sites like Carvana, CarMax, and Vroom have made buying a car almost as easy as any other online shopping.

Carvana Vs CarMax Vs Vroom Comparison

Carvana vs CarMax vs Vroom

When considering the overall ratings of CarMax vs Carvana vs Vroom, Carvana comes out ahead in customer ratings, Vroom is a close second, and CarMax comes in third.

If you’re not comfortable putting down thousands of dollars before you get to test drive a vehicle, then CarMax is your best bet. The experience with CarMax vs a dealer selling a car is similar, but you get the bonus of online shopping and no-hassle pricing.

For those that like the thought of buying a car like they order a pizza and having it delivered to their door, websites like Carvana and Vroom will be most interesting to you. And for those with a sense of adventure, you can try a Carvana vending machine.


Image sources:

  • https://www.carmax.com/            
  • https://www.carvana.com/vendingmachine       


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